The following is an excerpt from the Facts and Stats current Swiftsure Race 2011
Short History of Swiftsure
The first recorded sailboat racing in the Victoria area was in the late 1850′s, between boats of the Royal Navy and the early Colonists. Interest in the sport grew in the following decades, and by 1930, a long distance race from Cadboro Bay around the Lightship on Swiftsure Bank, at the entrance to the Juan de Fuca Strait was proposed, and there were six entrants! By 1960, forty- five boats were entered in this now-classic race. However, in the following year, the Lightship was removed from service, and now sailors round a Navy Vessel temporarily on station at the same location.
In 1962, after considerable grumbling by skippers of boats that were too small to go to “the Bank”, Royal Victoria Yacht Club introduced a shorter-course race to Clallam Bay, some fifteen miles west of Port Angeles, and called it the Juan de Fuca Race. Like the granddaddy classic, it too started with modest beginnings. In the first year of the Juan de Fuca race, there were but four entries; by 1969 this had risen to forty-nine boats.
With continued and increased participation, and faced with only two courses, one of 137 miles and the other of only 76 miles, the race organizers and many skippers found themselves in a dilemma. The solution was the introduction in 1988 of the Cape Flattery race, of 100 miles in length, halfway between the Swiftsure Bank and the Clallam Bay courses. This has proved to be a very popular race, attracting some of the very largest boats.
In the earlier years of Swiftsure, Eaton’s major-display window at the corner of Douglas & View, in downtown Victoria was set up as “Swiftsure headquarters”. A large map of the race course was installed, and the progress of the race was shown by moving minature boats across the map. As the numbers of boats increased this became a daunting task. The event, and this way of graphically displaying progress, was very much appreciated by Victorians. “People used to line the sidewalks, sit on the curbs. There was a feeling of excitement right there, in the middle of town”.
“Since the first radio broadcast from “Does crazy yotsmen” competed with the fisherman’s band to the outside world during the 1952 race, and L’Apache (later (Diamond Head) broke her backstay during the effort, Humphrey Golby has been “on the air”. Coverage expanded when Harold Elworthy’s Island Tug and Barge Company generously provided tugboats for the press. Radio station CKDA pioneered with the limited ship-to-shore equipment of the day and ‘The voice’ was born.”
For more details, refer to the 1980 publication of Swiftsure: The First Fifty Years, by Humphrey Golby and Shirley Hewett.